AMAZING TAP HANDLES!!!

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Welcome to Amazing Tap Handles - The Tap Handle Museum. Here you will find photos of the Museum's collection of beer taps, along with brewery info. Have a look around the Museum, and use the contact form in sidebar to leave me feedback about the site, talk about taps, or if you have a rare tap handle you'd like to sell to the Museum. I'd love to hear from you! Please, no inquires about buying taps - they're not for sale.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Tap Handle #594: Gray's - Busted Knuckle Irish Ale

Tap size:  9.25"
Rarity:  Scarce
Mounting:  standard 3/8" ferrule on 5/16" anchor bolt

I tried for years to acquire one of these taps to no avail. I finally obtained one last year and I love it! I'm not sure if this is one bad-ass looking leprechaun, or if it is simply a brawling Irishman, but it has excellent detail and bright coloring, with a green hat and shirt, a black hatband, and orange hair and beard. Below this character is a yellowish-green sign with the brewery's name, the beer variety in raised lettering, and recessed clover symbols. On each side of the sign is the same clover symbol and the name of the brewery. The front and back of the sign are identical to each other, as are the two sides to each other. The character, however, is a reverse image front and back, instead of a fully sculpted figure. This creates a really bizarre-looking profile when viewing the character from the side. As has been the case with the last several profiles I've posted, this tap is quite scarce. I've only seen two others, and those were prior to my acquisition, so it has been a long time since I've seen one, and the price was well over $100.

Click through to read more about Gray's Brewing, their Busted Knuckle Irish Ale, and to see more photos of this rough-and-tumble tap...




The current incarnation of Gray's Brewing was founded in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1994 by Fred Gray. In 1854, Irish immigrant Joshua Gray started brewing and bottling soda and beer. Gray's stopped brewing beer during Prohibition, and even after Prohibition was repealed, Gray's only made soda. The company later began buying other soda bottling plants in Janesville, and eventually acquired the local bottling and distribution rights to such brands as Dr Pepper. But, by 1980, thinning profit margins made it clear that even greater consolidation was needed in order for Gray's to remain competitive in the bottling business. Still family-owned, the company sold the bottling rights for other beverages, and focused on producing its own soda brands, and doing contract production for Jolly Good and other beverage producers. In 1992, a fire destroyed the company's plant, causing around $500,000 in damage. The insurance payment came to just under half that amount, but that cash, along with the Gray family's savings, a bank loan and a $65,000 loan from the City of Janesville (since repaid), financed the $400,000 reopening of the business in late 1993.


Fred Gray was at that time finishing up his bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Fred urged his father, Bob, to include brewing when the business reopened, as Fred had noticed an increase in the number of microbreweries across the country. He salvaged equipment from defunct breweries, and by 1994 they were brewing Honey Ale, the state’s original honey beer; “56” Oatmeal Stout, named for the year of Gray’s founding (1856); and the Irish-style Busted Knuckle. The brewery survived, and even thrived, despite very little marketing - Fred chose to sell his product based on its merits.


In 2006, Gray's opened their Tied House brewpub in Verona. The name refers to the traditional tied house that emerged in England during the 18th and 19th centuries. During that time beer was available at two types of public houses (pubs). A "tied house" was owned by a brewery and sold only beer that it brewed, while a "free house" was privately owned and featured beers from multiple breweries. Fred was approached by developers of the Vincenzo Plaza retail center in Verona, who were looking for a restaurant to help anchor the plaza. Fred and his partners agreed to lease the building, which in addition to the restaurant also includes a banquet room and live music. In 2007 they started brewing in the brewpub.


At the time the brewpub was opened, Gray's was producing about 2,400 barrels per year; currently they have an output of about 15,000 barrels per year. The beer lineup has expanded to a total of 7 varieties, with seasonals and specials served at the Tied House, and distribution is to select markets in Wisconsin and northern Illinois. More than 90% of the company's sales volume comes from soda production. Gray's has its own line of gourmet sodas, including Gray's Root Beer, Orange Soda and Cream Soda. In addition, the company does contract production for such soda makers as Random Lake-based Jolly Good sodas and Kewaunee's Baumeister Root Beer. The company's sodas are more widely sold, and can be found in Wisconsin, Illinois, California, Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Gray's is the oldest family-owned beverage company in the U.S.


Gray's Busted Knuckle is an Irish style ale brewed only in the spring as a seasonal. It has a special blend of four types of malted barley and three varieties of hops, with a rich red-amber color and thick, tan bubbly head that is very distinctive to the origins of this style of ale. The aroma is sweet and light followed by moderate caramel-malt flavors with a light roasty finish. Try some and you'll agree. the Irish Ale is the gold at the end of the rainbow.


Ratebeer weighted average:  2.97 out of 5
Beer Advocate:  77 out of 100 (okay)


Gray's Brewing Company
2424 West Court Street
Janesville, Wisconsin  53545




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